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New parish ministry feeds families -- and the occasional pet

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Precious Blood Church in Culpeper noticed that the parish needed a new ministry to meet the needs of the community. In April, the parish’s Director of Religious Education Kelly Wilton and a handful of volunteers opened the doors of a parish pantry. St. Joseph’s Table offers nutritious food to the homebound and families experiencing an emergency food need.

Every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning, a bilingual SJT volunteer coordinates with registered families from all over Culpeper County to pick up food at the SJT site. Clients in Culpeper town also have the option of no-contact delivery to their homes.

The experience has been rewarding for volunteers. One volunteer noticed dog food on the shelves and wondered why anyone would donate it to a food pantry. Later, as the volunteer was dropping off boxes of food to a family, she heard a dog. She immediately returned to the SJT site for the dog food and dropped it off for the family. Wilton received a text thanking SJT for providing yogurt as well as dog food, explaining a 5-year-old girl was praying to God that SJT would give her yogurt for her sick dog. Now, God answered her prayers because SJT gave her yogurt as well as dog food.

The pantry has continued to evolve and currently serves 63 families. Other parish ministries, such as the Knights of Columbus, Youth Ministry and WorkCamp, provide support by going door to door to request nonperishable donations and cleaning and painting the SJT site.  

As a response to clients’ needs, SJT now provides not only nonperishable items but perishable food as well as toiletries and baby items such as diapers, wipes, formula and baby food. Due to donations, SJT has a new combination freezer and refrigerator as well as a new upright freezer.

The pantry works with diocesan Catholic Charities’ St. Lucy Project and local food banks to ensure clients have enough food for their families. 

Miles is coordinator of St. Joseph's Table ministry. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020